MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines has ruled as unconstitutional the contract that allowed the exploration, development and exploitation of petroleum resources within Tañon Strait in the Visayas area.
Tañon Strait was declared as a protected area in 1998 by former President Joseph Estrada.
In a decision penned by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de-Castro, the SC ruled that Service Contract 46 (SC-46) failed to comply with the safeguards under Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution which requires that the service contract be authorized by a general law signed by the President, and reported to Congress.
The contract Tañon Strait exploration contract between the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Japan Petroleum Exploration Company Ltd (JAPEX) was nullified because it was not signed by the President.
“While there is a general law on exploration, SC-46 was entered into between the Department of Energy and the Japan Petroleum Exploration Company, Ltd (JAPEX) only by then Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, not the President,” the ruling said.
The contract was also not submitted to Congress, the SC said.
“For these reasons, SC-46 violated the Constitution and is unconstitutional,” the SC stressed.
In 2007, Japex and Forum Exploration Inc secured clearances and permits from government agencies for their exploration activities.
Fishermen in the areas covered by the Tañon Strait expressed fears that exploration could result to driving away of fishes.
Environmental groups also expressed fears that oil spill and other environmental damage could take place during the exploration period.
The Cebu Provincial Board has called on the DOE and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to strictly monitor the oil exploration in Tañon Strait to ensure that marine lives are protected.
“Tañon Strait is world-famous for dolphin and whale-watching tours and many tourists trooped to the area to see these natural wonder,” the Provincial Board said. – BusinessNewsAsia.com